MA Comprehensive Examination - Department of Political Science

Comprehensive Examination
Political Science Department
Public Policy Minor Field
Spring 2006
Directions: Answer two questions. The exam is organized into two sections. Select one question
to answer in each section.
Section One: Answer one of the questions listed below.
1. State governments in the U.S. are key participants in the policymaking process. What do
we know about the factors that influence decision-making in state governments?
Specifically, what factors internal to state governments influence the policies states are
likely to adopt? To what extent do external factors affect state policy decisions?
Illustrate your points with examples drawn from one or more policy areas familiar to you.
2. Numerous political analysts have argued that a reciprocal relationship exists between
politics and policy. That is, while it is obviously true that politics influences policy, it is
also true that policy influences politics. For example, policy feedback theories make
predictions about the political effects of policy on the “target group.” Discuss theories of
policy feedback and outline the expectations these theories have about target group
behavior in terms of political mobilization, political efficacy, and political participation.
Identify a policy that you think has influenced politics by changing the behavior of the
target group and relate your example to the generalizations you have identified. Is the
example you selected “typical” in that it illustrates the normal effects of policy feedback
or have some unusual aspects of the illustration you selected made it an exception?
Section Two: Answer one of the questions listed below.
3. Although elected officials have a variety of means at their disposal to exert control over
executive branch agencies, in some circumstances these agencies able to resist control.
Identify and evaluate the tools that the President and the Congress (including the
leadership, individual members, committees, and sub-committees) can use to exert
control. Provide a brief illustration of an agency and program that is more susceptible to
control and explain why this is so. Provide another brief illustration of an agency and
program that is more capable of resisting control and explain why this is so. Compare the
two illustrations you proposed to develop coherent themes about the possibilities and
limitations of political control. What are the consequences of the themes you have
identified for democracy?
4. Discuss and critique the following statement: “Policy making in the U.S. is dominated by
subgovernments commonly characterized as iron triangles.” Do you agree or disagree
with the statement? Why? (When answering the question explain, specifically, what an
iron triangle is and whether a subgovernment is the same thing as an iron triangle.) How
does the influence of sub-governments relate to theories of policy stability and change?